October 21, 2007

Surprise, Surprise!!

Filed under: 24/7 Teaching and Learning — sunyprof @ 9:39 pm

I know, I know. This is days late from my promised post (does anyone remember TH night?) but I’m, like you, on blog/information overload. NYTimes magazine essay today on The Pleasure of Rabbit Hole: Where All Those Screens–hand-held, laptop, desktop. plasma–are taking us and Will’s latest post about his experiences with 16 year olds in Vancouver just keep the wheels turning for me. Both convince me that we are so on the right track for so many of the reasons we have been discussing in class.

But back to information overload–there’s that trip to the mall today to get some help with my iPod that doesn’t seem to want to rewind my audible book (Connelly’s The Overlook) and an inquiry into when the new MAC OS system, Leopard, is going to be rolled out (10/26! YEA!) and hours and hours reading 541 unit plan drafts and responding to blog posts, both course and individual–no wonder I’m exhausted.

But leaving exhaustion aside, what’s really on my mind–you of course.

Will Ray and Steve inspire all of us to join them on the Cortland SL island?
Will Sofia generate classmates’ interest in lesson plans on the course wiki?
Will someone make a movie about Jon’s kids’ bead project?
Will Andy get cooperation w/the Cortland 8th grade book club wiki project?
And is he editing his 17 minute long podcast?
Will Amanda decide to work w/some kids in a creative writing class at the Cortland Alternative HS?
Will Kate post about her reactions to hearing Alfie Kohn speak TH night? I hope so.
And how is Jerry coming on his new idea to podcast from his wife’s classroom?
And Steve, is he going to skype Will for us one of these TH afternoons?
And Laura, what kind of a video is she making with her kids?
And will classmates respond to her blog prompt?
And will Mandy and Amanda decide to collaborate on a video?
And do my students think the ALA READ poster campaign (who is Corbin Bleu anyway) I’m waging is a corny as I think they do?
And will my students see the exciting connections in the current issue of the EJ and our work together in 506?
And most pressing of all, is Steve serious about those OMAM costumes?
Lastly, will any of my students read my blog and find its posts worthy of a response?
Well, not lastly, since that leads me to wondering if EVERYone is using her/his bloglines feed to access new content? And will my blog post show up on the roll?

See what I mean–maximum information overload! And you wanted philosophy too!

Heffernan’s essay in the above mentioned NYTimes (10/21) seems to strike at the heart of what Sofia says in her blog posts about virtual worlds. Throughout Heffernan analyzes her mom’s absorption in books, and what “steals [the author’s] mind” in relationship to those of us absorbed in an online life:

“We Internet users are told, as novel readers and moviegoers and television-watchers used to be told, that our pastime is obscurely dangerous. Immersion in art, away from the tasks of daily life, always strikes someone as unhealthful.

This time around, in the digital age, the hazard of full engagement with words, music and images is called “identity theft.” Still, what about the idea of surrendering your actual identity — your name, rank and serial number in the real world — to a wonderland of play in mysterious realms? That also sounds like being absorbed, immersed and transported. It sounds like the kind of engagement with art that we fantasize about when we buy everything from books to cable packages to satellite radio to flat-screen TVs to iPod docks. It sounds great.”

Do read the whole essay and Will’s insights into those adolescent minds in Vancouver–watch what he does with Twitter–the guy’s a genius. Listen to his podcasts too. Next step for us–getting some of our own podcasts up on our blogs. Yea!


September 24, 2007

Filed under: Reflections on 21st Century Classrooms — sunyprof @ 6:55 pm

Chris Sperry has just asked us to write (blog) about our reactions/feelings/thoughts on teaching English for 21st century literacy? His prompt has sent me back to my neglected blog.

My primary feeling is one of tremendous excitement as well as deep frustration that our schools, specifically ELA classrooms, are still operating on old paradigms of what it means to be literate, or as Bob Yagelski says, literate subjects.

Adolescents need to do meaningful “work” in ELA classrooms–they need to be content producers and exercise ownership over their own “projects” which they bring to school every day but often hide from us or work “disruptively” either behind our backs or even in front of our faces.

Analysis of all kinds of both student produced and imported texts needs to be the primary focus for our students’ work in this century. That work needs to go far beyond instruction in what we could call literary history which should be a small piece of the reading/writing we sponsor in our ELA classrooms.

We have 30 more seconds to write. Now folks are sharing.

“Thoughts on the sharing–‘it’s already moved on by the time we learn it. So now what?” What about the older literacy that’s still important. What about the quality of students’ writing? Students can’t put together a coherent argument anymore.”

“We have to know what kids are looking at, producing. So much of it is unmonitored and can be hidden. We have fewer opportunities to provide the sources of input that might help them develop sophistication and responsible use.”

“Undergrads are more focused on interactive/social media..iPods, cell phones. A great deal of their experiences have nothing to do at all with the content of the courses we teach them. How can we make connections between their interests and the skills they need to develop.”

“One of the key issues we need to address is to assume the role of collaborators and co-learners who bring with them a knowledge of technology. Our students are experts at these technologies. We need to give them access to a much wider audience. Blogging is not just a start/stop work process. It’s ongoing.”

“I’m excited about the new opport. in education. There’s something for everyone. I see gaps as being narrowed rather than widened…..students with special needs can be helped as well as students at risk.

“Where is the critical thinking? I see traditional concerns such as cheating still operative. They can text but they can’t hold a conversation.”

“I’m alarmed…so what is it? Less than 39% of students … schools are slow to change…by the time our district acquires the tech. it will be outmoded.”

“To Chris–Are we using traditional tools because it’s your choice? The most astute techie in the class can’t get the image to project on the screen. Yes I am overwhelmed. What is important is knowing how to make the choices about what is important. I have used blogs/wikis…etc. But what informs all of this media?”

“I basically wrote a whole par. of questions. What kinds of writers are we trying to create? Where does one begin and end? I still feel overwhelmed. When these worlds collide what will happen? It will be ever-involving? When do we pick something and run with it? What can be done about the affordability factor? Who’s the authority? Does there have to be an authority?”

“There are so many different types of programs, etc. that do the same thing…How do we organize all of the different tools.”

“Middle ground–where do standardized tests fit into this type of new literacy?”

“Teaching Eng. at the h.s. level continues to head toward the focus of testing/statistics. Technology and the time and funding it requires to learn, train others, etc. will keep most teachers from using it. Is it realistic? I’m not sure. I’d like to help use these tools. It’s more about priorities of education.”

“I’m a big fan of bridging the digital divide. The one huge problem I see is that the non-linear quality of new media is that it erodes the importance of learning and making coherent arguments which are linear by definition. More and more I find kids can’t make strong arguments. Are distributed cognition and collective intelligence some kind of answer. They sound promising. What’s happening is a sign that we need major paradigm shift. My other problem is that new media is distracting. I sound like a Frankfurt School critic…if you spend all your time with new media–your MySpace pp. Are we bound for idiocracy?”

“The greatest challenge is not the how–it (media) has its own evolution.”

I’ll get back to this later…too intense to continue.

June 20, 2007

Welcome to Open Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — sunyprof @ 12:40 am

Spurred on this week by wonderful mentors, Chuck Dziuban and Gardner Campbell, and colleagues Alex (whose own blog, Digital Digs, is a model for my own), Cynthia and Michelle, I’ve decided to leave the “safe” world of facilitating course blogs and strike out on my own. I also need to give a nod to that uber-blogger, Will Richardson, who introduced me to the blogosphere in the summer of ’05. Thanks doesn’t say it Will.

These two days have been an opportunity for me to hear other faculty members’ “blue skies” for their dream classrooms. Many of us have similar visions of creating more vibrant classroom communities and connecting with our students in myriad ways.

Another of my colleagues in English at Cortland had first dibs on “Open Book,” but she decided to cede the banner to me if I promise to get blogging. So here I am.

I teach grad and undergrad versions of a course in technology applications for ELA classrooms. This past year students worked with the Mac iLife Suite to produce websites, podcasts and videos. They also developed critical media literacy “lessons” inspired by Renee Hobbs, whose Media Literacy in High School English is one of the texts that informed our work together. Our work together focuses on how new technologies are reinventing English.

The challenge is for us to combine the difficulties inherent in experimenting with new technologies while at the same time focusing on pedagogical applications for middle and high school students.

I welcome the chance to dialogue with others of you who are interested in English/Teacher Education.

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — sunyprof @ 12:32 am

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